Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Curb your enthusiasm

Le Devoir's report on the environmental hoax involving Canadian press releases at Copenhagen that played out yesterday includes a little reminder of the Prime Ministerial spokesperson's track record abroad:
Ce n'est pas la première fois que Dimitri Soudas est impliqué dans une histoire semblable. En juillet dernier, M. Soudas avait dû s'excuser publiquement après avoir induit le premier ministre en erreur lors du sommet du G8 à L'Aquila. Sur les conseils de M. Soudas, Stephen Harper avait alors dénoncé devant la presse internationale des propos prétendument tenus par Michael Ignatieff et qui concernaient l'absence du Canada au sein d'un futur G8 remodelé.

Or, le chef libéral n'avait jamais tenu les propos que l'équipe Harper lui attribuait. M. Soudas avait lu rapidement une dépêche et mélangé quelques citations, sans vérifier la véracité des propos ni la source. L'erreur avait été rapidement reconnue et corrigée, et Stephen Harper avait fait un mea-culpa public.
So yesterday's incident was the second such incident of jumping the gun on the international stage in the past year for Soudas. The real environmental hoaxsters have been outed, it appears, but not before Soudas brought to national attention his accusation that Steven Guilbeault of the group Equiterre was responsible. They really do owe Mr. Guilbeault and his group an apology.

While this little episode with Soudas might seem like a small matter, it might actually be a window into what's going on with the Canadian government delegation this week. Copenhagen is like a lion's den for the Harper contingent, they're probably in high defensive mode this week. Then comes the embarrassment from this hoax, clearly causing some stress for the Harper people. I mean, just imagine, this dyed in the wool p.r. contingent of Harper spokesthingys, with their p.r. fiefdom having been misappropriated. It's their worst nightmare, loss of control over the message, egads! And with a strong pro-environmental message at that! So you have to hand it to these pranksters, they really knew how to stick it to the Harper gang, right in the p.r. wheelhouse where it hurts. Soudas' defensive reaction more than demonstrated that. It wasn't the substance of the environmental issue, again, that Soudas was upset about, it was how the Harper government was being made to look. Bad press motivates them much more so than policy concerns.

As for Soudas himself, one would think a Prime Minister's office would not want to risk a similar faux pas as the one we saw this past summer at the G8. You'd think it might have led to a dialing back of the employee's opportunity for, let's call it, enthusiasm at international gatherings. It's not supposed to be amateur hour in the PMO, is it?